Tatenda Mutseyekwa was born on September 25 in 1984 in Harare. He has always had a passion for art, initially drawing, then later painting and sculpture. He now specializes in oil on canvas painting. Much of his craft has been self-taught, though he took and excelled in art classes throughout his education. From drawing ninja turtle cartoons in primary school in Harare, to thriving in art class at Falcon College in Esigodini, he has never dropped his skill and continues to excel. Academic scholarships took him to Milton Academy in Boston, where he completed High school, and to Stanford University, CA, USA where he completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics in 2007. During his freshman year, he was the first student to exhibit at the Cantor Arts Museum on campus. After a brief stint working as a tutor then an investment banker on wall street, he decided to return to Zimbabwe and start his own businesses.
Now a successful entrepreneur breaking ground in Zimbabwe, Tatenda continues to paint, mostly during nights and weekends as he has never “quit his day job”, as advised by Stanford University Art teacher Mr Enrique Chagoya. Slowly but surely his collection is growing, and he will soon exhibit locally and abroad. He began exhibiting locally at HIFA in 2014, and will continue this year at the Art Festival at Wild Geese Lodge on Sunday 15th May, 2016.
Though he only formally began studying art in high school he has had a keen interest in drawing and the visual arts from a young age. At Stanford University he also begun writing and recording music under the tutelage of Jidenna Mobisson of “Classic Man” fame, who be became close with while on scholarship in high school at Milton Academy in Jidenna’s hometown of Boston (Jidenna is also of Nigerian descent). He went on to paint two commissioned works for Jidenna, “Consecration under fiery sky” and “Out of Place”, which was for his sophomore album recorded at Stanford University. Prints for both are available.
After his mother bought the family’s first black and white television in the early 90s, Tatenda got started with drawing by competing with classmates in drawing “ninja turtles”, “Voltron” and “smurfs” animations from memory. This was a risky exercise as teachers did not condone spending time on things other than the subjects instructed; English, Math, Shona and Content (social studies and environmental science). However, upon seeing one of his drawings, a teacher once insisted that his drawing was a tracing. His ability to draw become evident to himself and others quite early in his life. He also spent a lot of time sketching everyday scenery, and had a fascination with realistic drawing. Art is not a high-priority subject in the vast majority of Zimbabwe’s (and indeed Africa’s) public primary schools. Thus his first formal art class came when his mother was able to afford to send him to a private boarding school at Whitestone School in Bulawayo in the southern Matabeleland region of the country. There as a 7th grader he now finally not only had art instruction, but just as importantly, access to art materials and media.
Later he learnt some of the basics of perspective and color in drawing from Mrs Coulson at Falcon College in Zimbabwe for four years before meeting Paul Menneg at Milton Academy in Massachusetts for two years. As far as painting goes, his early favorite was the work and style of Vincent van Gogh, but he soon began to master his own ever-evolving style of painting. Currently he takes great inspiration from the style of Kehinde Wiley. At Stanford, apart from his Economics curriculum Tatenda took some art classes including an ‘independent studies’ mentored by Enrique Chagoya. Though he has gained a lot of insights from his art instructors, much of Tatenda’s style was self-taught and practiced in his own time, when he also began sculpting soapstone, much in the tradition of the great Shona stone sculptors.
Tatenda’s art to this point has been exhibited at HIFA, and he will participate in this year’s Art Festival at the Wild Geese Lodge in Harare. In his “What is an author” philosopher Micheal Foucault (1926-84) argues that a work of art does not belong to the alleged maker, as he is a conduit for the ideas of the period. He argues that rather the work belongs- or ought to belong- to the preceivers who of course interpret it variously according to their historical, social, and psychological state. This frames the reception theory, which holds that art is not a body of works but is rather, an activity of perceivers making sense of images. This is not the appropriate framework in which to consider Tatenda’s work. Firstly, Tatenda is not only an artist in the way most Western or Euro-centric artists are because his works serve more than just being mantelpieces for critique, admiration and display. They not only perform the function of necessary social commentary but also project possible healthier scenes from the future, from dreams in the present. Given the space in which Tatenda finds himself now on earth, he has fittingly titled this phase of his career, “Reflective, Projective Afro-Histograms”. Like Nkisi sculptures from the Congo, his works also physically have socially enhancing properties- such as enriching or consecrating a home. The underlying thread in much of his work can be summed, “Seek not necessarily to do as your ancestors did, but yearn to do what they always dreamed about doing.” Tatenda’s art is not only a conduit for the ideas of this era, but it brings today’s norms and perceptions to true light, in lieu of flashes from yesterday and visions of tomorrow.
I am currently working on a series of portraits, landscapes and Zimbabwean history oil paintings on canvas. I am also Blogging about the Zimbabwean Situation and my experience living, working and painting in modern day Zimbabwe.